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ALEXANDER,  VON  HUMBOLBT.                   47
general, in -which the living ramparts of impenetrably-
intertwined prickly cactus,  and the crocodiles -which
live in the moats of the fortress and guard it3 were a
new and peculiar feature; after he had made himself
acquainted with the customs of the inhabitants, which
had many peculiarities., and might almost be called
amphibious, as children and adults spend a few hours
daily on the river Manzanares, where they put chairs
in the water on moonlight nights^ and smoke their
cigars on the  river,  and even invited Humboldt to
join in this pleasure ; he directed his attention to the
volcanic soil on which he was living, for Oumana was
often visited by earthquakes.    He studied the history
of these earthquakes in order to find new views, and
to be able to regulate the direction  and extent of
those  shocks under a yet-to-be-discovered law.    On
the  9th August,   1799? he made his   first excursion
with Bonplantl to the island of Araya, which in former
times was famed for its   slave-trade   and  its pearL-
fisheries, and where., after wandering through a wood
of torch-thistles, he came to a hut inhabited by an
Indian family, where he was hospitably received and
accommodated for tho night, and then remained two
days in the neighbourhood. He soon afterwards made
a nocond excursion to the missions of the Ohaymas
"Indians,   a   district  filled with a wonderful   animal
and vegetable world, arid a people living almost in
the rudest state of nature.*   Hero he wandered  on
a soil rich in springs, beneath trees of gigantic size
covered "with lianas (tremendous parasitical plants) ^
down the valleys to the hute of the Indians, sur-
rounded  by  sugar-cane,   melon-trees,   pisang,   and
maize.    Describing his stay here,  he  says :   " If a
traveller   enters   for   the   first  time   the  woods   of
Southern America, nature reveals herself to Mm in a
Burpriwmg form.    What he sees is little calculated to
remind him of the descriptions which celebrated tra-
vellers have made of the shores of the Mississippi, of
Florida, and  other moderate regions   of   the   JSTew
World.    But here (ip. Central America) the